Like Putting an Octopus to Bed

This is going to be a stream of consciousness and probably won’t wrap up properly, so buckle up.

I’ve gone ahead and started a blog that I had the best intentions of writing for every day. That hasn’t happened and for three reasons:

1 – I’ve been embroidering almost every day.

2 – I’ve been writing what might be a short story or might be a novel.

3 – I quit my job.

I’ve had some trouble with coming back to the blog since I wasn’t sure how to tie it all together. All three are things I want to write about and figure out my feelings, but they were all things that were important and information I didn’t feel like spacing out over many posts.

I’ve been reading this book called “Bird By Bird” written by a woman named Anne Lamott. It was gifted to me by a friend at work for our gift exchange at Christmas and it was one of the things that gave me the most confidence about leaving a job I hated: there was something else out there for me. I’m still not really sure what it is, and it probably isn’t writing (hardly anybody makes it as a writer, don’t you know?), but it was a symbol that someone else knew I could do other things and wanted to support me in that. Thank you, Jesse.

He also gave me a whoopee cushion and an air horn, to help me express when I’m feeling like shit and when I’m feeling LIT. I’ll let you decide which one is for what.

Funnily enough, Bird by Bird has also given me the perfect metaphor for how I’m feeling about my life right now.

There’s an image I’ve heard people in recovery use – that getting all of one’s addictions under control is a little like putting an octopus to bed. You get a bunch of the octopus’s arms tucked under the covers, but two arms are still flailing around. But you finally get those arms under the sheets, too, and are about to turn off the lights when another long sucking arm breaks free.

I’m not an addict, but I’m definitely in recovery. Recovering from being manipulated and mentally abused and exploited (I’m still unsure if this was all on purpose or completely unintentional), while also trying to figure out this whole writing thing and what it means and also putting a lot of time and effort into building my artistic skills. I’m working part-time at two new jobs and also trying to get my health back on track. I’m trying to see more friends and also keep my apartment clean, laundry under control and at least some eggs in the fridge.

I suppose a lot of this is what many people deal with in everyday life. But I swear, I’m so scarred by my experience leaving my job, it’s going to take me a long time to trust anybody professionally ever again. Maybe I never will and maybe you’re not actually supposed to trust people. We’ll find out.

This all sounds like I’m really overwhelmed, but I’ve mostly just done a lot of thinking. And I still have a lot of thinking to do. But it’s nice to reflect and come to terms with where I’m at in my life. I didn’t think I’d be here.

I’m happy that I’m not at that job anymore and I’m trying my best to not be bitter about how things ended and send them positive thoughts since it’s a tough business and everyone deserves a little positivity sent their way.

I’m happy that I have time to focus on things that are important to me and do things on my terms again. I’m a little lost but much more empowered.

I read somewhere recently that life’s purpose isn’t to be happy since there’s no equation for that and you’ll never know how you feel about the same thing on different days. It’s unpredictable. But what is predictable is that you can be useful. You can control how useful you are and how much effort you put in. Life’s purpose is to find purpose, and happiness is a by-product of usefulness.  

So I’m just going to be useful in some way. To be productive at whatever I’m doing, no matter how small, and I’ll continue tucking the octopus’s arms under the sheets not before throwing him a high five or two (or eight).

We knew each other once.

We met at a restaurant. Later I’d learn that it was your mother’s restaurant and you’d never been a server before. It was one of your first weeks. You’re actually a much better cook.

I’d seen you serving the patio as I walked in, you looked at first exactly like Bradly Cooper. Now in my mind, you are definitely not Bradly Cooper. You’re just you.

I was wearing a romper that I still have and I can’t put it on without thinking about you, because that night shifted my entire life. 

I can picture you talking to me and teaching me about things you’re interested in. You blew my mind with the wonders you were learning about the universe and planets and stars. You even had a telescope. Wait, have. You definitely still own it.

Once you took me on a hike and taught me about mushrooms and then got mad when I touched a toadstool because stuff like that is poisonous and then laughed when you saw the look of shame and horror on my face. We chased each other out of the woods and hopped into the car where our skin stuck to the leather seats and our faces became numb against the wind coming in through the windows. 

We’d smoke weed and eat whole pizzas and one time we watched that weird movie about that monster that I can’t remember the name of. We talked a lot. You were so honest about everything, so blunt and open. I really like that about you. I hope the memory of our conversations will travel through time nestled deep in your belly like they will mine. 

This writing is terrible, and it’s not giving our weird little friendship the description it deserves. I can’t seem to type words out that convey how you made me feel about myself. Maybe because I can’t remember details exactly, I just remember being really overwhelmed by you. I had mistaken this feeling as love at first sight, but I don’t think I ever loved you. It had just been my conscience knowing that the moment I realized I needed to be near you marked the point where I knew I wasn’t in love with my then-boyfriend any longer. You taught me that I’m really beautiful the way I am and that I deserved to be told so over and over again. No one had ever flattered me so genuinely.

I think about how you might be a bigger part of my life if I wasn’t so eager to make you a big part of my life. 

I know if I texted you now you would respond, but I’m not in a place where I need you anymore. Maybe one day we’ll meet in the street and catch a beer and enjoy each other’s company all over again. I’d like to hear you sing again one day. 

I’ve thought about you a lot lately and hope you’re doing okay. 

Intentionalism

I’m always on the search for a new person to inspire me. I’m somewhat a product of my generation in that I like when people who seem like they have some of their shit together tell me what to do.

Oh, you clawed your way out of debt and are a successful freelancer that’s not desperately selling your organs online? You must be woke, tell me your ways. And also explain what woke means. 

I stray from this in one way: I’m picky. I’m extremely picky.

I don’t just take YouTube or Instagram’s suggestions and run with them. Their algorithms are programmed to show us content similar to what we’re already consuming. This doesn’t work for me since I’m the Goldilocks of content consumers. It has to be just right. And chances are if you’re the person standing next to the person I like on the scale of style, values and content… I don’t like you. Well, it’s not that I don’t like you, it’s just that I won’t go out of my way to keep up with what you’re doing.

Just because I like Rich Roll, doesn’t mean I’m going to like stuff Tim Ferris does. I like hearing about Tim Ferris through the lens of Rich Roll, but I can’t seem to get on board with content from him. If you don’t know who these people are, start with Rich Roll. He’ll introduce you to everyone you need to know. 

To suit my taste, you need to have a clean aesthetic, a simple and authentic message, and unique content. This is more difficult to come by than it sounds.

I’ll cut to the chase a little more quickly. I’ve started to follow a YouTuber called Matt D’Avella. Instantly, I was drawn to the quality of his videos and the attention to detail he’s given every shot. It’s clearly the work of a true professional and he definitely cares about what he’s doing. I love him. Is it too soon in our relationship for me to just come out and say it? I love him. If I start writing his name with hearts in the back of my Moleskine planner, you can notify my boyfriend.

He has this short video about minimalism (he was actually the guy who did that documentary on Netflix about Minimalism, though I only found this exciting news out from simply watching his videos – I loved this documentary), where Joshua Fields Milburn of the Minimalists (see link) says about minimalism, 

For me, the ism is less important. You can call it minimalism, I think it’s the perfect word. I also think it’s the most imperfect word because sometimes it scares off people. Sometimes it scares people enough to actually make some changes which is great, but if it’s too austere of a word, then you can say essentialism, you can say intentionalism, you can say living-within-your-means-ism. Whatever ism you want to use, but it really has to do with living a more meaningful life.

*cue a montage of stuff blowing up as a metaphor for my brain*

I truthfully stopped listening after intentionalism. It hit me like a rock hitting water and cornstarch. It made a huge impact once it hit, but once I sat with it, it sunk right in.

Everyone talks about mindfulness, they talk about minimalism. I’ve only encountered intention as part of a yoga class – an intention is a thought or a feeling you set for the class as a dedication of sorts. Sure, at the root, I guess mindfulness and intentionalism are both kind of synonyms of each other when it comes down to it – but intentionalism is different because of the feeling it gives you when you think about doing something with intention instead of mindfully.

Mindfulness is peaceful, it’s taking note of what’s happening and not being affected by the sea of actions happening around you. It’s the pebble at the bottom of the river that lets the water rush over it without trying to stop it.

Intentionalism is action. Intentionalism is the deliberate lack of action. It’s choice and thought and action, inaction, stoicism, mindfulness, minimalism, zero waste, budgeting etc. etc. etc., all rolled into one. It’s motivational, it’s empowering and it’s easy to manipulate into something unique – into a term that works for you.

Mindfulness feels like a slow walk in the park, enjoying every flower, the smell of the breeze and acknowledging the present moment.

Intentionalism is choosing that present moment. It feels like marching down the street, feeling the journey rush over you, seeing the crack in the pavement and stepping over it, and taking control over which flowers you want to see today, or if you’d rather sit in a coffee shop and write a blog post. 

Both are valuable and you can’t (read: shouldn’t) live without either. But there is a certain level of control and choice we all have that gets left behind when people talk about enjoying life and being present for the journey.

So this is the mission. Keep moving forward, or slow down to a pace that feels right for you. Heck, screech to a stop if that’s what you need. Just do it intentionally.

Creativity and Writing: 5 motivators for me, and maybe for you.

Clearly, I’ve hit a slump in my writing.

Unless you’re someone who follows along with my somewhat acceptable blogging (hi mom), you won’t know that my goal was to write a blog post every day. Needless to say, I’ve failed at that.

There are a couple of strategies I’m going to use from here on out that I’ve unintentionally picked up through my regular inspiration channels, and I’m going to share them here in order to:

  • Use this list as a blog post in and of itself (two birds, one stone).
  • Have it here for me to refer to when I’m feeling particularly uninspired or unmotivated.
  • Give someone who may be reading this some good resources and introduce them to new influencers or brilliant minds.

Come To Terms With Your Own Crappy Content

I read Medium a lot. There are lots of good articles that cover literally everything you might be interested in, written by a wide variety of people who love to write just for fun. Just like me.

One of the best articles I’ve come across is about how to keep yourself creating. It acknowledges that people are scared to start doing something that other people will judge or hate. It keeps us in a state of paralyzing analyzation and has us sitting for too long on ideas that are just going to a) come out anyway b) have the potential to be great but just waste away in their lack of materialization.

Everyone is a beginner, so we have to come to terms with the fact that in the first stages of doing something new, we’re probably going to be really bad at it. The only way to get better is to keep doing it over and over. You can’t evolve something if you’re not moving forward with it.

Once you wrap your head around the idea that writing crappy words is an unavoidable part of the process, you’ll write more.

Ayodeji Awosika, on Medium

You’re supposed to suck as a beginner, and everyone starts as one.

Do it every day.

This is always the advice people who talk about creativity and inspiration give, but for good reason.

I watch a popular travel photographer and self-proclaimed “Advanced Selfie Queen”, Sorelle Amour. This girl is crazy. Crazy inspiring, crazy creative, crazy weird. It’s awesome.

She recently made a video where she tried living like Casey Neistat for a week. He has a famously strict schedule that includes a shitload of running, extremely early mornings, and a highly efficient work schedule. I must admit I had fun watching her struggle and was proud when she completed a 10k run every morning (Casey actually runs 30 miles which is NUTS), but the big thing I took away from it? She was forced to make a video every day just like Casey.

She said,

I legitimately thought I was struggling creating two videos a week, and now I was forced to do seven. But I’m so re-inspired and I’m loving it and I’m capable of creating so much, which I never thought I was going to be able to do. The amount of videos that [I was] sitting on, the amount of ideas that I had to create these videos, but I was always coming up with some sort of excuse; maybe people wouldn’t like it, maybe it’s not the right topic, this is kind of boring, no one wants to watch it… but when you’re so busy and you have a scedule, you just have to do it. You don’t have time to overthink so you just create.

And that’s what the goal should be, right? To just create.

Take someone else’s idea, and put your own twist on it.

Did you really enjoy that inspirational article you read? Did you enjoy the vibe of the short story someone posted? The style of a video? The look of a painting?

Use that inclination towards things you like to make it your own. You’re going to feel more motivated if you’re producing something you already know you like, and it’s going to go faster and be more enjoyable if you already have an idea of what the end result will look like.

BUT, don’t replicate! Besides the fact that this can lead to plagiarism (biiiig no no), you won’t ever be someone else other than yourself, and nor should you want to be. In order to produce something in the same realm as the product or the person that inspired you, you’ll need to challenge your skills and evolve your creativity to make it your own. That’s where the magic happens, baby.

When in doubt, write poetry.

This is definitely more geared towards myself, but I find it much easier to produce writing if I don’t force myself to put out 800 words or find a topic that I can talk at length about.

My poetry is always short and vague. It helps me when I’m feeling a certain way or want to convey a feeling but only have words that allude to a situation or a vibe. It makes me look at different types of words different ways and forces me to think about metaphors and similes and adjectives in a whole new light. Words can mean so much and when you use them sparingly, you are forced to choose the right ones.

Show up for someone, most of all yourself.

In the same article I read about coming to terms with sucking at something, Ayodeji Awosika mentions that he focuses on other people. And while I feel this can be a powerful motivator, I think it’s more important to stick with something for yourself first.

You should only be doing something if it makes you feel good to produce it. While it might not always feel good to force yourself to do it, as long as it consistently makes you feel good to create it, you know you’re on the right track.

“No.” is a complete sentence.

I fully expected that having time off would call for a reevaluation of where I am in my life, where I’d like to be and how I’m really feeling about it.

I had a difficult time going from work mode to vacation mode.

I’m not the type of person who can just hand over responsibility and be unphased by the possibility of everything falling apart while I’m gone. I kept thinking, “If something goes wrong, it’s my fault. It was my job to set it up properly before I left.”.

This is the one disease I’ve gained by working for a small business. Growth in a small business means someone is in charge of implementing systems that will help the whole thing work smoothly. I’m one of those people in my workplace.

My need to prove myself, the things I tell myself about how I’m a quitter (that this has made me a failure in the past), and my loyalty to people I respect (wanting to make sure they’re comfortable and everyone is taken care of) have made for the perfect storm for self-deprecation and guilt if I’m not pulling 3x my weight and working an insane amount of hours.

At the other end of that, I end up thinking, “This is not efficient, it shouldn’t take me 50 hours a week to do this. This must mean I’m not doing a good job.”.

For the past few months, I’ve struggled. A lot. And I can’t seem to stop talking about it or thinking about it or writing about it, or worrying what people think and stressing that I don’t have anything to fall back on if I fail at this job.

Towards the end of this week, something clicked. And, unexpectedly, two random people have changed my life.

One is Jane Fonda. The other is Thomas Edison.

I was watching the Netflix documentary called Feminists: What Were They Thinking?, and Jane Fonda was talking about the opening titles she had to pose nude in for the Sci-Fi movie BarbarellaShe notes that she hated being naked but she trusted the director’s vision. In the end, she said, she just didn’t know how to say no. And here’s where my heart dropped. She said (and I paraphrase),

“It wasn’t up until ten years ago that I learned “No.” is a complete sentence.

No.

No explanation, no beating around the bush (so to speak). Just. No. If Jane Fonda can say it, I can say it.

As I’ve said, I have a hard time with failure. This has been the theme of my thoughts during and after sessions with a therapist. And I don’t know what brought it on. It’s not like I was heavily pushed to succeed as a child. No one punished me if I didn’t do well in school or in sports. I’m just naturally hard on myself when I can’t do something better than others or feel like I’m moving forward when I’m trying my best.

Here’s where Edison comes in.

Thomas Edison tried somewhere between one thousand and ten thousand times before creating the light bulb.

Along the way, he realized he was experimenting and not failing. It’s the same motion, but a different outlook.

Aha! I’m experimenting.

Being part of a small business has given me the platform to experiment without being 100% responsible for the outcome. Because I’m not. I’m part of a team who is supposed to support me and work with me.

Is it time to move forward and conduct new experiments? I’m not sure.

But, can I continue to strip myself of my energy and sanity for another person’s project?

No.

 

 

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Iceland Part 3

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But really, it’s like part 5 or 6.

Here it is, the last of the slew of photos and quick updates.

It’s an amazing country. I don’t have much to compare it to, but as far as beauty goes (and I’m Canadian… we have like, the most beautiful country ever), it’s pretty spectacular. When we drove out to Hofn you literally couldn’t escape the mountains. I imagine that’s similar to BC, but this little island can only hold so much mountain. And there was a lot of frickin’ mountain.

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Reykjavik was dreamy weather for this part of the world. Days were damp but fairly mild and the sun poked out more than we expected. We made use of this good weather on Wednesday to take the elevator up to the top of the church. Boy, the view was worth the $10 charge.

For those of you interested, Iceland has its own currency which is just slightly more valuable than the Canadian dollar. It’s a little more than $1 for 100 Icelandic Krona. Most things were more expensive. For example, an oat milk latte at Reykjavik Coffee Roasters was ~$7, but some things were really randomly cheap. OB tampons were less than $3. Craaaaaazy. Guess who smuggled a few cartons home?

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And yes, I found the best doughnuts in Iceland. Of course I did.

Deig was hidden by the old harbour, and I was really really surprised to find fresh yeast doughnuts, brushed with a simple cardamom and lemon glaze. OH. MY. GOD. Yes. I felt right at home with this in the best way.

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Iceland, it was an absolute honour. We’ll be back.

Last Couple Days

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This morning we had a hard time waking up. The short days really screw with your mind when you’re used to waking up at 6am and the sun is starting to appear. We made it out to the baths to soak and arrive in the world. It finally got light around 10am.

Luckily, we have good coffee really close. I swear, this has saved me.

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Upon reflection, I couldn’t have asked for the trip to go any more slowly or quickly. I’m not quite ready to go back to work, but I don’t feel like our time here has flown by too fast. We got so much in.

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Today is the full relax day. We plan on ambling along to the last art gallery or two and hitting a highly recommended Gastro Pub, Kex, mid-afternoon before it gets busy and you need a reservation.

I was able to do one of my favourite things: sit in a coffee shop and edit photos and videos over a coffee or three. Adrian is graciously waiting for me to finish up. He looks bored, bless him.

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Tomorrow we check out of the Airbnb and head home around 5pm.